Petrol bombs in race clash

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The Independent Online

Sixteen people were arrested in Oldham, Greater Manchester, yesterday after petrol bombs were thrown during clashes between football fans and Asian youths who responded to racist taunts.

Sixteen people were arrested in Oldham, Greater Manchester, yesterday after petrol bombs were thrown during clashes between football fans and Asian youths who responded to racist taunts.

Racially fuelled violence broke out before and after the game when a group of 250 Stoke City fans chanted racist abuse as they walked through terraced streets on their way to Oldham's ground, which is in the middle of a Bangladeshi residential area.

Police said around 40 Asian youths came out of their homes to respond to the chants and the fighting broke out between them and about 50 Stoke fans.

But officers played down any link between the fighting and an allegedly racist attack by a gang of Asian youths on 76-year-old Walter Chamberlain in Oldham a week ago.

Racial tensions in the town also came to national attention recently when Asian youths told the BBC they were creating "no-go zones" for whites, although police and community leaders have denied this. Last weekend there were three racist attacks in the town and neighbouring Chadderton.

A Greater Manchester Police spokesman said: "We are talking here about football hooliganism which was inflamed by racist chanting. It would be foolish to link the behaviour of Stoke City fans to local problems in Oldham given that elements of Stoke City fans seem to cause trouble everywhere. Racist chanting at football matches is unfortunately a problem at a number of clubs around the country."

Of those arrested, nine were from Stoke and five from the Oldham area. Police said all the arrests related to public order offences, including three for violent disorder.

It is not known who threw the petrol bombs at police as they held the rival gangs apart in Chadderton Way. Three policemen were treated for minor cuts and bruises.

The police statement added: "Stoke fans made racist chants and that offended and upset the local residents, who responded. It is regrettable that younger elements in the local community engaged in the trouble and we therefore appeal for calm and a return to order in the area."

Chief Constable David Wilmot and council leaders in Oldham are trying to stop a National Front March planned for 5 May. The BNP has also chosen two prospective parliamentary candidates to stand in Oldham's west and east wards in the next General Election.

Trouble also broke out in north Wales this afternoon before a match between Wrexham and Millwall. A number of fans were arrested before the match, which was delayed for 15 minutes.

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